Completing the FAFSA

Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in the financial aid process. You must fill out the FAFSA to apply for federal student financial aid, such as the Pell Grant, student loans, and college work-study. New York State and most colleges use your FAFSA to make their financial aid awards as well.

The sooner you fill out your FAFSA, the better. Many types of financial aid are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis, so it’s to your advantage to file as early as possible. The FAFSA is available Oct. 1st for the following year's financial aid. Filing as soon as it is available ensures you will not miss any deadlines and are considered for all available financial aid.

To help make completing it a breeze, following is an overview of the FAFSA process.

Step 1: Get Your FSA ID

  • An FSA ID gives you access to Federal Student Aid’s online systems and can serve as your legal signature.
  • Only create an FSA ID using your own personal information and for your own exclusive use. You are not authorized to create an FSA ID on behalf of someone else, including a family member.
  • Both the student and one parent need Federal Student Aid Identification Numbers (FSA IDs) to complete and electronically sign the FAFSA and other federal student aid documents
  • To save time, create your FSA ID before your CollegeGoalNY event and bring it with you. Visit

Step 2: Gather This Information

    Here is a checklist of the information and documents you should have with you as you complete the 2019-20 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

    • Student’s social security number.  Have the card to ensure the number is correct.
    • Student’s FSA ID.
    • Student's email address, if available.
    • Parents' social security number. Have the card to ensure the number is correct.
    • Parents' FSA ID.
    • Parents' dates of birth.
    • Student's driver’s license number, if you have one.
    • Student's Permanent Alien Registration Number, if not a U.S. citizen.
    • Copy of student’s 2017 Federal Income Tax Return.
    • Copy of parents’ 2017 Federal Income Tax Return.
    • Records of student’s 2017 untaxed income from the following sources of income:
      • Child support payments received in the student’s name
      • Interest income
      • Veterans non-education benefits
      • Social security benefits in the student’s name
    • Records of parents’ 2017 untaxed income from the following sources of income:
      • Child support payments received in the student's name; do not include foster care
      • Tax exempt interest income
      • Veterans non-education benefits o such as disability, death pension, etc.)
      • Untaxed portion of pension benefits; exclude rollovers
      • Untaxed payments to tax deferred pensions and retirement savings plans (on W-2)
      • Untaxed portion of IRA distributions; exclude rollovers
      • Untaxed portion of IRA deductions
      • Housing, food and other living
      • allowances pd. to members of the military, clergy & others
      • Other untaxed income, such as workers’ compensation & disability (not untaxed SS benefits)

    Step 3: Get Started!

    • Visit to start the FAFSA.
    • Answer all of the questions.
    • Use the IRS Data Retrieval Tool to upload your tax information into the FAFSA.
    • If you choose not to, you may use the materials you gathered in Step 2 to answer the questions.
    • Submit!
    • IMPORTANT: Complete the TAP Application!
    • If you include a college in New York on your FAFSA, start your NYS TAP application.
    • Use the link on the confirmation page of your FAFSA to complete your TAP application.

    What Happens Next

    • You’ll get a Student Aid Report (SAR) summarizing your FAFSA and indicating your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Review it and make any corrections needed.
    • Watch for email notices. HESC will email news to you about your TAP application and award status or ask for more information.
    • After you are accepted at college, you’ll get an award letter from your college showing the financial aid you can expect if you attend that school. Consider the options outlined in the letter including grants, scholarships, loans and work-study programs.
    • Talk to a financial aid professional at the college if you have any questions about your financial aid award letter. You should accept or decline the aid package by the deadline and complete any other forms required by the school.
    • Use the Financial Aid Award Packages comparison tool to highlight the significant differences, calculate the net cost, and estimate the total cost of your education.

    Following Up

    FAFSA follow-up is available at This site provides resources for managing your FAFSA, including allowing you to:

    • Add or delete a school code
    • Check the status of a submitted FAFSA or print signature page which is available one week after submission if you used your FSA ID to sign your application, and two to three weeks after submission if you printed, signed and mailed a signature page.
    • View and print your Student Aid Report (SAR)
    • Make corrections to a processed FAFSA

    Apply for Aid Each Year You’re in College

    Remember, you need to complete the FAFSA not just once, but every year you plan to attend school. If you filled out a FAFSA the year before, you can probably use the shorter Renewal FAFSA and TAP application.


    Watch out for organizations that charge a fee to submit your application. You can fill it out for free.

    Be wary of organizations that charge a fee to find you money for school. Some are legitimate and some are scams.

    Generally, any help that you pay for can be received free from your college financial aid office and HESC.